Sharing the Gospel in the Face of Danger
The 700 Club
On March 5, 2009, Maryam was in the apartment that she and Marziyeh shared in Tehran, Iran. When Marziyeh came home that day, she came to the door with another woman and two men, none of whom Maryam recognized. These strangers pushed their way into the apartment and began ransacking every room, drawer, cabinet and closet. These men were part of the Revolutionary Guard and were followers of Ayatolla Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.
The girls had lived in the apartment for a year which was also the meeting place of a secret church of young people who risked imprisonment and even death to worship Jesus Christ. The men found literature, New Testaments in Farsi, the language of Iran, and Christian CDs. The girls were detained and taken to police headquarters for questioning. After hours of interrogation, the girls were charged with advertising and promoting Christianity. They were held in a detention center for 2 weeks and transferred to the notorious Evin Prison where they were imprisoned for 259 days.
The conditions were crowded; the food was terrible as was the medical care. “For the first 2 weeks, we prayed for our release,” says Maryam. “After that, we could see miracles every day and that strengthened our faith.” Evin Prison, the dreaded hellhole of Tehran and symbol of radical Islamic oppression, had become their church. Maryam and Marziyeh were able to share their faith in Jesus and pray with many women who were incarcerated with them. “We saw God had a plan for us and all those hurting women,” says Maryam. “We were happy to serve them.”
The girls settled into a routine. Each prisoner was allowed a noncontact visit every week and one contact visit every month where the girls could hug and touch their family members. Many of the prisoners were Islam only because they had no choice. Some were hungry for answers. Everyday, Maryam and Marziyeh saw the power of Christ at work, drawing the broken, frightened, sinful people to Himself with a message of hope, strength and forgiveness. Many of the women were imprisoned unfairly. They heard countless stories from women who were trying to not only protect themselves, but who had been pushed to the breaking point by the ruthless laws that give men unlimited control over women in Iran.
HOPE AND TRIUMPH
Though Maryam and Marziyeh are strong spiritually, there were times in prison when they were scared. “The only way we could endure,” says Marziyeh, “was with our faith.” At times, the girls were separated. Throughout their time in prison, the girls say the presence of the Holy Spirit was their Rock, the one assurance they always had that the Lord loved them, would never forsake them and was using them for some great purpose.
One week melted into another as they waited for news about their case. Finally in November 2009, the day came when the girls were being released. As they were walking out the door, they could barely leave. They hugged and kissed all their friends as they walked down the hall and out the door.
For two years before their arrest, the girls hosted 2 home churches and had given away almost 20,000 New Testaments. Now that they were out of prison, Maryam and Marziyeh say that their friends who are still in Evin are in their thoughts every day. After much thought and prayer, both girls decided to leave Iran. “We were still held captive by a regime that monitored our every move,” says Maryam. In May 2010, 6 months after their release, Maryam and Marziyeh left for Turkey where they lived for 1 year. After their visas were approved, the girls moved to Atlanta, GA. They are attending school and continuing to pray for the women at Evin. “Our hearts are there; we cannot forget them,” says Maryam.
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